Francis Howell Advances to Class 5 Final Four

By Jack Witthaus
Prep Baseball Report Writer

It was deja vu all over again. 

On Thursday afternoon, Francis Howell faced the same team that it did in 2011’s quarterfinal at the same ballpark under similar, overcast and rainy weather conditions. 

Fittingly, the Vikings again prevailed with the win, a 4-2 victory over St. Louis U. High. 

Francis Howell will head to their ninth State Championship appearance next Friday and is slated to square off against Staley on May 31st at TR Hughes Ballpark. 

Working on three hits, the Vikings managed to snag the lead in the sixth inning on a risky, two-strike bunt off the bat of junior Nic Perkins.  

“If he had guts enough to do it (with two strikes), I had no problems with him trying it,” Howell’s coach Tony Perkins said. “He did it and that worked and it was a pretty big deal.” 

Nic Perkins advanced to second on an errant throw to first. Without skipping a beat, slumping senior designated hitter Nate Green lined a shot down the right field chalk to score Perkins. Green later scored on a wild pitch to make the score, 4-2.

Coach Perkins thought about pinch-hitting for Green, but assistant coach Darin Cissell talked him out of it. 

“He was due to come through,” Perkins said of the logic. 

On the flip side, senior pitcher Donnie Lovelady, who’d only pitched 10.5 innings coming into Thursday’s game, limited SLUH’s bats to four hits. 

Lovelady tossed 4.2 frames, striking out two and allowing two hits. He relieved senior lefty starter Austin Southmayd, who lasted 1.2 innings and gave up two earned runs on a walk and a hit batter. 

“It was nerve-racking,” Lovelady said. “First pitch I threw I was shaking so bad.” 

Senior pitcher and first baseman Calvin Munson, whose two-run homer to left field tied the game, recorded the final two outs of the game for the save. 

Munson, though, pitched himself into a high-stakes jam in the top of the seventh, walking SLUH senior Matt Binz and junior Luke Robinson with one out. 

However, Munson hung tough and got Jr. Bill No. 3 hitter Kaleb King to fly out to center on a play that tangled up Howell’s senior centerfielder Josh Gwaltney and junior left fielder Eli Dilday.

A silenced crowd watched Dilday walk off the field holding a towel to his busted nose as he was escorted off the field. Coach Perkins said Dilday will likely need stiches. 

After the injury, Munson punched out SLUH catcher Charlie Kretschmer.

“It was nice for Calvin to get the job done,” Perkins said. “His curve ball was pretty sweet.” 

SLUH’s loss was its third consecutive quarterfinal loss. 

“I think (SLUH) tried to make plays they couldn’t make,” SLUH coach Steve Nicollerat said of his team’s three errors. “One (error) cost us a base and another one an out.” 

Jr. Bill’s starter Brian Howard, Prep Baseball Report’s No. 3 recruit from the 2013 class, hurled strong seven innings, allowing one earned run on three hits. He walked two and struck out six. 

“Brian deserved a better fate,” Nicollerat said. “He’s had one heck of a baseball career at St. Louis U. High. I have a feeling that we’re all not done seeing him yet.”